The Importance of Manual Handling in Aged Care

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Importance of Manual Handling in the Aged Care Industry

From assisting with daily living and supporting mobility to providing transportation and facilitating activity, aged care workers play a huge role in the lives of their elderly clients.

But ageing support is about more than just meeting basic needs. Moving and supporting patients comes with many potential hazards. Aged care workers must be dependable, attentive and careful if they want to eliminate risks during manual handling.

The good news is that with proper training and careful planning, you can reduce injury risks and ensure the safety of yourself and your client.

In this blog, we’ll explore all the manual handling responsibilities you’ll perform in an aged care role, the associated risks, and ways to ensure you’re always providing a first-class, risk-free service to your clients.

What is manual handling in aged care?

Manual handling is a fundamental aspect of the aged care industry. It refers to the use of physical force to move, transport and support patients who have difficulty moving due to age-related conditions.

Effective manual handling is essential, both for your own safety and your client’s. Incorrect manual handling techniques can lead to discomfort and injury. Manual handling training will teach you how to evaluate risks, use assistive devices and collaborate with colleagues to reduce the risk of manual handling injuries and ensure workplace safety.

What are the main manual handling responsibilities of an aged care worker?

Manual handling is a core part of aged care work. Here are some of the primary tasks and responsibilities that you’ll perform in the workplace:

  • Helping patients to walk and move around, either with physical support or by supplying mobility equipment like walkers or canes.
  • Lifting patients to move them from one position to another.
  • Assisting with standing and sitting.
  • Safely transporting patients to and from medical appointments using wheelchairs or stretchers.
  • Helping clients adjust their beds or chairs to relieve pressure and provide comfort.
  • Assisting clients with personal hygiene needs, such as bathing and grooming.
  • Supporting patients as they get dressed or use the bathroom.
  • Moving medical equipment to different locations as required.
  • Decluttering spaces and dealing with hazards to ensure safety.
  • Performing household tasks, such as carrying meals, lifting heavy objects and washing clothes.
  • Helping clients in and out of vehicles.
  • Assisting clients with physical assistance in the event of an emergency.

What are the risks involved with manual handling?

Part of being a great aged care worker is understanding the risks associated with manual handling tasks.

Assessing potentially hazardous tasks allows you to take steps to reduce risk factors. It also allows you to evaluate your performance and improve your practices. Let’s examine some of the biggest manual handling risks for you and your client.

Risks of manual handling for your client:

  • Physical injuries, such as cuts, bruises, strains, and breaks resulting from unsafe manual handling techniques.
  • Additional health complications due to physical stress placed on the body.
  • Mental strain due to poor manual handling practices.

Risks of manual handling for you:

  • Physical injuries, such as muscle strain, ligament damage, or back pain resulting from poor lifting techniques and improper use of manual handling equipment.
  • Mental and physical exhaustion due to repetitive heavy lifting.
  • Repetitive strain injuries from repetitive movements and improper technique.

What are some common injuries resulting from manual handling?

Ageing support is an incredibly rewarding career path, but that doesn’t mean it comes without risks. Carrying out many manual tasks with improper technique can take a toll on your body and increase the chance of injury for your client.

Proper training, effective techniques, careful planning and attentiveness are essential if you want to mitigate risks. Let’s look at a few of the common injuries associated with manual handling in aged care.

  • Back and neck pain: Incorrect lifting techniques, poor posture and repetitive movements can strain the ligaments, muscles and tendons in your back and neck. This can lead to serious injury over time.
  • Hand and wrist injuries: Lifting objects too quickly and using poor grip techniques can place immense stress on your wrists and hands. This can lead to sprains, tendonitis and repetitive strain injuries like Carpal Tunnel syndrome.
  • Shoulder damage: Carrying heavy loads without using proper techniques can cause injuries to your shoulder, such as dislocations and rotator cuff damage.
  • Exhaustion and mental stress: Regularly lifting heavy loads without breaks can contribute to fatigue and exhaustion. This can lead to mental stress, burnout, disorientation and confusion.
  • Trapped nerve pain: Poor posture and repetitive strain increase the likelihood of trapped nerves, leading to pain, weakness and numbness.
  • Cuts, scrapes, and bumps: A lack of proper safety precautions when handling awkward or sharp objects can cause cuts and abrasions.
  • Slips and trips: Carrying heavy loads without the correct equipment increases the likelihood of slips and trips.

The number of potential risks can make a career in aged care seem daunting. But don’t worry – most injuries in the workplace occur due to a lack of expertise and improper technique. With quality training from a registered training provider like Sage Education, all of these injuries are easily preventable.

How do you avoid risks when manual handling in aged care?

Managing risks in aged care facilities requires care, consideration, and careful planning. A good starting point for all aged care workers is to understand the five core principles of effective manual handling:

  • Education and training
  • Equipment
  • Risk assessments
  • Teamwork
  • Continuous Improvement

By mastering these five components, you’ll greatly reduce the risk of injury for you and your client. Let’s examine each principle in more detail.

The five core principles of effective manual handling in aged care

Your daily tasks as an aged care worker will vary depending on the individual needs of your clients – adaptability, versatility, and efficiency are essential. But don’t worry. By undertaking proper manual handling training and following these five core principles, you’ll be equipped to deliver first-class service time and time again.

1) Education and training

Comprehensive training is the fastest, most effective way to build your expertise and grow your skill set. An aged care course will give you a broad range of knowledge that you can apply to every aspect of your career.

As part of your training, you’ll learn all about manual handling in aged care, including how to:

  • Provide individualised manual handling support to people with complex needs.
  • Perform risk assessments.
  • Use assistive devices to facilitate safe transporting and handling.
  • Foster a communicative, collaborative work environment.
  • Mitigate safety risks for you and your client.
  • Lift effectively to reduce injury risk.
  • Utilise proper body mechanics.

If you’re just getting started with aged care or want to advance into a senior role, a high-quality aged care course will give you the skills you need to progress in your career.

Looking to build your expertise in the aged care sector? Why not try one of Sage Education’s nationally recognised courses? We currently offer three specialised aged care courses. These are:

  • CHC33015 – Certificate III in Individual Support (Ageing or Disability)
  • CHC43015 – Certificate IV in Ageing Support
  • CHC52015 – Diploma of Community Services

All of our courses are designed to prepare you for a rewarding, risk-free career in the aged care sector. To learn more about each course, click the links above. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re always happy to offer advice and guidance.

2) Proper manual handling equipment

Repetitive heavy lifting can be tough on your body. It’s essential to make the most of the equipment available to you.

Manual handling equipment helps personal care workers transport, move and support clients. Here are a few tools designed to make your role more manageable.

  • Mechanical aids: Mechanical aids, such as chair lifts, personal elevators and mechanical hoists, use a combination of hydraulics and slings to lift and transport patients safely and effectively.
  • Transfer belts: Transfer belts assist clients with movement. They are worn around the waist and feature two handholds, allowing the aged care worker to aid movement and prevent falls. Healthcare workers often use them as they are a great way to transfer patients to and from beds and wheelchairs.
  • Slide sheets: The slide sheet assists care workers with moving and transferring patients. They are made of a low-friction material, making it easier to adjust and maneuver your client for maximum comfort. Slide sheets are typically used in conjunction with other manual handling equipment like slide boards.
  • Slide boards: Also known as transfer boards, the slide board is a simple, effective way to transfer patients from one surface to another.
  • Slings: Slings come in all shapes and sizes. Personal care workers use them to assist patients in moving, sitting up, standing and lying down. They can also support clients while they bathe, dress or eat.
  • Wheelchairs:  These effective transportation devices are widely employed in all aged care settings. They are often used alongside other devices like transfer belts.
  • Mobile hoists and ceiling hoists: Hoists are used in conjunction with slings to make lifting and transporting clients faster and safer. Mobile hoists can be moved and relocated at will, while ceiling hoists are permanently fixed to the ceiling – usually above a patient’s bed.

3) Risk assessments

Identifying, assessing and preventing hazards is the building block of successful aged care work. Performing a risk assessment can help you identify potential problems and reduce injury risks.

For instance, if you were planning to lift an elderly patient from their bed to a chair, consider these factors:

  • How heavy is the individual?
  • Who is at risk?
  • Does the individual have any special requirements?
  • What equipment do we have available to lift the individual?
  • What safety precautions are in place?
  • What are the manual handling risks?
  • How can we control these risks?
  • How should we react if something goes wrong?

A comprehensive risk assessment will enable you to tackle any task with confidence. Every aspect of your assessment should be thorough and well-documented, allowing you to reflect on and improve your own practices afterwards.

4) Teamwork

Lifting everything alone is unrealistic and a short route to injury. Learn to support and rely on your colleagues. Promoting effective communication and collaboration between caregivers ensures everyone is on the same page.

Where possible, always complete a lifting task with multiple people. Cooperation reduces the physical strain on your body and ensures you’ll always have support if something goes wrong.

5) Continuous improvement

The aged care industry is constantly changing. Commit to continuous improvement by reflecting on your own best practices. 

Listening to feedback, evaluating your performance, and assessing incidents will allow you to increase workplace safety, reduce injury risks and deliver the best service possible to your client.

Common manual handling technique problems and how to solve them

Here’s a brief overview of some common technique problems and how to fix them:

  • Improper lifting techniques: Poor lifting technique is the easiest way to injure yourself at work. Always keep your feet firmly planted on the ground as close to the load as possible. Never lift with a rounded back and straight legs. Always bend your legs and lift slowly, keeping your back straight and the load close to your body.
  • Moving too quickly: Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to aged care. Rushing things can cause sprains, strains and unnecessary injuries, both for you and your client.
  • Poor posture: Maintaining poor posture when performing physical tasks can place stress on your muscles. Always stand straight and stretch regularly to prevent injuries.
  • Overexertion: Remember to take regular breaks to allow your body to recover from physical exhaustion.
  • Not using assistive devices: Always make the most of the assistive devices you have available. They’re there to help you and reduce injury risks.
  • Lack of communication: Don’t forget to ask your colleagues for support. When performing a task together, always communicate calmly and effectively so everyone has a clear strategy in mind.

How do I learn more about manual handling techniques?

The best way to grow your confidence and build manual handling expertise is to enrol in an accredited aged care course with a reputable training provider like Sage Education.

All of our aged care courses are purpose-built to give you the skills you need to succeed in the aged care industry. You’ll learn how to provide compassionate, individualised support to older people with complex needs. In the process, you’ll also discover the best ways to keep you and your client safe during manual handling in the workplace.

Why choose Sage? We also help all of our graduates secure employment once they’ve successfully completed their training. That means you could start your new aged care role within just ten weeks of your course end date.

During your training, you’ll also receive valuable one-to-one support and guidance from our well-trained instructors.

Want to learn more about the courses we have to offer? Contact us here. We’re always open for a chat. Our team is committed to helping you find the course pathway that’s best for you.

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